Best Albums of 2013 Pt. 2 (30-21)


#30. The Ocean – Pelagial

TheOcean_PelagialI have always found The Ocean to be an incredible band, ever since I first found out about them. Pelagial is a monster of an album, and possibly their finest work yet. This sprawling concept album that started as one giant instrumental song, became on of the best post-rock/progressive/metal albums of the year. Although I prefer to listen to the instrumental version of the album, the singing and screaming is some of the best to date out of the group. I have honestly been growing tired of most progressive music these days, so it takes a lot for a prog band to really stand out to me, and this album totally stood out. I love the atmosphere and the groove that this album has. It balances the every important line of being impressive without being annoyingly showy. It also shows its brutal side, and when it does I love it. I think most importantly, this is an ALBUM. It has a theme, all the songs are connected, and the packaging of the special edition, which I waiting a long time for, is beautiful. I love this band, and I love the time they put into realizing their concepts, which is why this album is on my list.

#29. EF- Ceremonies

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This is another album that I didn’t listen to a lot when I first got it, but I decided to give it a chance when I went back to make this list. I am very happy I did, because this album is all the things I love about the Post-Rock Genre and more. I will say, when I heard a lot of singing, I was initially turned off, but this band proved that you can have vocals in a Post-Rock setting and have them not be drowned out or too separated. I honestly have been growing somewhat bored with a lot of the more standard “Post-Rock” bands, but EF really stepped it up with this album. It has some incredible arrangements and orchestration. I love their choices of instruments and their arrangements are just emotionally touching. Honestly, I think the reason this album made such an impact on me is that a lot of it reminded me of the softer moments from The Felix Culpa, and I am always looking for music that can connect to that bands totally unique sound. Oh, and the trumpets….Mmmmmm trumpets.

#28 Junip – Junip

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This is the kind of album you get lost in. You put it on, and you are surprised when it finishes, because it flows so well. I love Junips sound. I could best describe it as what cuddling by a fire would sound like, if it were music. They are just so warm and fuzzy and wonderful. I love their choice to overload their sounds, just enough to give it that nice fuzz. I love the fuzzy bass lines and chill grooves. This album may seem repetitive to some, but Junip is a band that could just jam for hours doing the same thing, and I would never get bored. I would just get cozy. They have a unique sound that is connected to indie rock without sounding too much like any one band, other than themselves. I loved their first album, and I love this album. As long as they keep making their fuzzy warm music, I will most likely continue to love Junip.

#27. Norma Jean – Wrongdoers

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This was a band I never got super into, until their last album, “Meridional”. I loved how it managed to capture the more melodic side of the Anti-Mother while still being really heavy and intense. “Wrongdoers” is another step towards their chaotic and heavy origins, but it does not leave behind the things that made their last album so incredible. In fact, I would say that Wrongdoers is such a great culmination album. It really blends the history of their sound into a new, heavy, intense, at times sporadic metal album that would honestly make a really killer swan song, of sorts. Not to say I want Norma Jean to stop making music, but this is just such a good album to put at the end of all their previous albums. It really captures what I think Norma Jean was and has become.  I would probably still go to Meridional more often because I have such a connection to that album, but that does not discount the quality of Wrongdoers. It may not beat Meridional in terms of my personal favorites, but it is an amazing feat of combining years of work into a really cohesive album.

#26. The Dodos – Carrier

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Ever since my friend, Kelly introduced me to this band, they have always had a special place in my heart. That being said, Carrier is another album that managed to slip past me in the never ending stream of new music coming out. I am happy I pulled it out of the catalog and gave it a listen because it really is a fantastic record. It’s the most straight forward indie rock album on this list, but it does that style so well that I had to include it. This album became my soundtrack album while walking around rainy Portland as night fell and the hazy grey sky turned to black. It was one of those moments where the music perfectly fit the scene, and it made everything seem to come together. The album does have a heavy heart behind it, as it was inspired by the death of a friend, which makes it connect with me even more. You can hear the emotion drip throughout the album, especially on songs like “Relief”and “Death”. It’s a powerful album, like most of The Dodo’s work, and I am happy I revisited it, because it’s an album that is worth your time.

#25. Wilderman – Learn to Feel

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I need to start by saying that this album is not for everyone. It is especially not for you if you like clean, digitally produced and mastered music. This album is messy. It’s difficult at times. You can hear it clip. And it is in these imperfections that it’s beauty shines through. This album is just dripping with humanity. The project of Michael Gungor’s brother, Robert and it is a bluesy, messy album full of love and loss and emotion. I love the inclusion of some really beastly synth solos on top of the overwhelming jams that make up this album. This album, more than anything, really captures this mans heart. It is his pure artistic expression. No producers had their hands on it, this is him, in song…and that is why I connect with it on such a deep level. Like I said, not everyone will enjoy this album, but I did, in ways I would have never expected. I really feel like this is an album that needs to be experienced, so go and download it (for free here: http://wilderman.us/about) and give it your time. Let it inspire you.

#24. Pretty Lights – A Color Map of the Sun

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Right when I was ready to be done with EDM, Pretty Lights comes around and releases this funky, soulful EDM album that redeems what I had considered a genre that was on the downhill of its fad status, and even elevated it. This album was recommended to my by my friend Heather, and if it wasn’t for her recommendation, I would have never listened to it. I am really happy she shared this band with me, because this album is something that I have not heard from Electronic music in a long time. Not to say that people aren’t doing this, because they probably are, but I just am not super dedicated to the genre, so I miss out on a lot. I love the soul this album has. The samples are classy and dignified, and most importantly, they are rarely modified up two octaves for whatever ungodly reason EDM thinks to do shit like that. When the more stereotypical EDM stuff happens, its doesn’t bash you over the head with it and it makes it so you can enjoy the musical value of the genre. Plus the amount of variety between tracks makes each song memorable, and not just a sea of breakdowns and LFO’s.   This album is just classy and I am very happy my friend showed it to me.

#23. Typhoon – White Lighter

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I found this band when I lived in Illinois. I found them through itunes when searching for deeper music. I liked them, and I even remember playing them a lot back when I ran a youth group and refused to play shitty christian music for the kids. But for one reason or another, when reflecting on them, I don’t really have a clear picture of their sound. Well, I moved to Portland about a year and a half ago, and low and behold, Typhoon is, along with a couple other awesome bands, from Portland. So, when their new album, “White Lighter” came out, I was really excited to get my hands on some new, amazing, local music. And boy ever did I. This album is everything I wish I could make, if I only had 12 people to help make it with me. Its complex and uses some really amazing time signature shenanigans to craft some absolutely wonderful songs. Oh, and did I mention the band is 12 members? So, all sorts of cool orchestration in this amazing band. This album is just fantastic. The lyrics are deep, the instrumentation is fantastic, and the arrangements are just….beyond words. Seriously, if you haven’t listened to Typhoon, go get this album and listen to it.

#22. Beacon – The Ways We Separate

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Okay, here we are again. This time its beacon, and well…Beacon has made the Thom Yorke’s current project (Atoms for Peace) album that I was hoping for.  So, this album is a more minimal ambient electronic group, with hypnotizing beats and falsetto vocals. And it just feels so right. This is an album to just relax to. It doesn’t feel forced, which was a large problem for me with the last two Yorke projects. Wonderful deep sub-bass, minimal sequenced lines and wonderful ambiance make this album. And I don’t even feel ripped off while listening to it (and album can have more than 8 songs, Thom). This album just has the ability to instantly chill me out from whatever is happening, and it’s a nice feeling. If you are a fan of Kid A era Radiohead, and are sick and tired of Thom Yorke’s bullshit (okay, so Atoms for Peace was a quality album and I will get into why its not on this list in a later post), give this album a listen.

#21. Five Iron Frenzy – Engine of a Million Plots

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Okay, so before I get into this album, I have to say this: There are albums that have already been talked about that are for all objective purposes, better than this album. This album, on a strictly objective level, would probably land closer to 40 than 21. But, as I originally stated, this is not a purely objective list, and this album was there right when I needed it. I was not a crazy Five Iron Fan back in the day. I never got on the Frenzy Boards, and I didn’t drive anywhere to see their final concert. They were fun ska band that my friends were super into. So, when I heard they were coming back, I honestly didn’t care. The kickstarter and the tour passed me by, and I really didn’t pay them much attention. But, as the album came closer to release, I started to get mildly curious. On release, I gave it a listen. By the end of song one I was tearing up a little. Not because of some profound revelation, but because it was nice to know that I am not the only jaded youth group kid who still has faith. But, not the kind of faith that we would boast of while dancing around to “Dandelions” in the youth chapel. No, this is a faith that finds its only hope in that sliver of truth that you can not not be real. It was an extremely powerful album to me, that really hit me right where I am. Musically, its a great album. Its far more of a rock with horns, rather than ska, but that does not discount its value. My only issue with this album, is the goofy “Battle Dancing Unicorns with Glitter” and honestly, as I have continued to listen to the album, it has grown on me. But, at first it just felt too goofy for such a serious album. Anyways, if you liked Five Iron, or maybe even if you didn’t, check this out.  It does a great job of showing hope in the midst of reality, pain, and doubt…and even, in a certain sense, shows how doubt and faith don’t always have to be at odds.

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